10 Must Know Security Tips for Apple Mac Users

By Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mac users are relatively secure from the growing threats of intruders and hackers. But that doesn’t mean that you can just sit back and relax with your gates wide open. You never know, a single virus or a human mistake can ruin your Christmas party big time. Especially because its festival time, I know that you will be busy in buying different gifts from online shopping forums which need a lot of sensitive information to be sent. WHat if someone tracks them down all and exploits them. Don’t worry. I am here to tell you 10 good tips which will keep you away from those cyber- thieves.

1. Disable Auto Log-in Option

  • Open System Preferences and go to the Security pane.
  • Click on Disable Auto Login option.

This completely disables automatic login. Your system will startup to a login panel with a list of names. This is the most secure option because it doesn’t make the computer usable from a cold boot. Only legitimate users can use that. and You can feel safe that after a reboot no one will be able to log into your computer unless they are listed.

2. Get A Good Password

This is perhaps old tea served in new plate but still it tastes as essential as the early days. Even now, in this age of brute-forcing and password guessing techniques, half of us don’t use a password which is hard to guess. Give it a try, if it is too hard to remember remember it anyhow but use a good password.

Keychain can help you in this regard with a password assistant of its own. Though it may be too random for you to remember, anyway, you will get to know the strength of password you have provided your computer with.

3. Keep Your Firewall ON

Some look at Apple’s firewall as useless because it automatically pinholes running services and doesn’t allow some users in while locking some users or or whatnot. It’s not a commercial-level firewall (GUI) but it does do something very well: it prevents ports opened by rootkits or trojans from being accessible. Turn on the firewall and unauthorized listeners will be blocked.

4. Use Secure Virtual Memory

Did you know that you are being followed? Well not exactly. But your computer stores everything you type (and everything you read) in temporary memory (called virtual memory). Without checking the Use secure virtual memory box, anything you type or read, if it is still in memory, will be plainly visible to someone who knows how to read it.

Thus, if someone steals your machine, it is possible the password you typed to log in (or anything else you typed) might be readable. Using secure virtual memory will scramble even this temporary memory, giving you much more protection.

5. Set a Password to Restrict External Access

This one is good for lab administrators or those who want to tighten up the security of the computer to an advanced part. If you set this password, you will need to enter each time you boot your computer. This prevents a user from booting the computer from a CD/DVD, external hard drive, network drive, or the boot drive until the password is entered.

  • If you’re running 10.1-10.3.9 you can download the Open Firmware Utility from Apple.
  • If you’re running 10.4.x, you must copy the Open Firmware Utility to your Utilities folder. It is on your 10.4 install/restore disc (first restore disc) and is located in the /Applications/Utilities folder.
  • If you’re running 10.5.x, you must boot from the Leopard install/restore disc and choose Firmware Password Utility from the Utilities menu.

6. Use Apple FileVault

Most of us don’t even know about this Apple Filevault facility. Worse, even if we do we don’t try to use it. FileVault is a technology built into Mac OS X Leopard that allows a user’s home folder to be stored on an encrypted disk image rather than as a group of folders on the hard disk. So if you don’t use Mac and your laptop gets stolen then anyone can simply log in to your account and access all of the data through Restore Disk facility of Mac. If you use FileVault, you won’t have a problem to compromise your sensitive information.

7. Lock Down Your iPhone

Locking down your iPhone may seem irrelevant but is absolutely needed. First, you need to turn on the SIM PIN. You can do this by navigating to Settings ->Phone-> SIM PIN. From here, you can create a PIN number that will be entered each time you turn on your phone to gain access to incoming and outgoing calls and data. But be very sure to remember the PIN number. It is absolutely a must-not-forget.

There is another option as Passcode Lock but its good for those who have sensitive information inside phone memory (I don’t think it will be applied to a wide scale user). Otherwise, one can easily use your unprotected SIM PIN and make as many calls as he wants.

8. Turn Off Unwanted Services

I know this reminds you of automatic updates of Windows. But this is important for Mac users as well. Go to System Preferences ->Sharing. Uncheck everything you’re not using, even if you think you will. Turn it on when you need it and turn it off when you’re done. I know its a bit tedious. But don’t spare yourself on this. You may repent later.

9. Install Anti-virus

I know you will say that then where is the difference between a Mac user and a Windows user? I agree. Even when I accept that Mac is a lot secure still, its better to be safe than to be sorry. If you read our article then you will realize that even Apple recommends using anti-virus softwares for Mac users. So better believe it.

10. Bonus Tip: If your Macbook is already Stolen

Consider installing theft recovery software like Undercover or MacTrak so that if your laptop is stolen, you might be able to see its location and new owner. Make sure your user account is password protected. Turn off Bluetooth on your iPhone to prevent unauthorized access.

So, have a safe and secure holiday season with your family. Stay hungry but not foolish.

[source: macgurulounge.com & macgeeky.com]

December 3, 2008: 11:41 pm

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